AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan and MediaLink Chairman and CEO Michael Kassan explored 5G and its potential opportunity for robotic manufacturing, AR/VR and mixed reality, sporting experiences, public safety and beyond.
Evidently, John Donovan isn’t concerned about the criticism that his company has faced for updating some 4G-LTE phones to display the 5G E label, a move that competitors are calling misleading for customers. Nor is he concerned that AT&T’s description of their so called mobile 5G deployed in 12 U.S. cities last month is: “standards based,” when it really is not. A video stated:”AT&T is the first to deliver standards based mobile 5G.” In fact, it is neither standards based or 5G as per ITU-R WP5D or 3GPP (which is NOT a standards organization).
“If I occupy beachfront real estate in my competitors’ heads, that makes me smile,” Donovan on Wednesday told CES attendees during a keynote in Las Vegas. HIs comments came one day after some customers discovered that their phones had changed from reading LTE to 5G E, which stands for 5G Evolution. The move, which caused some confusion, was meant to indicate that the phones were now accessing a network twice as fast as 4G LTE, Donovan said, and one that would pave the way for 5G.
Competitors slammed AT&T over the move. T-Mobile poked fun at the marketing ploy on Twitter. Verizon took out a full-ad in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today to tell customers that it wouldn’t make the same move. And Sprint’s CTO told Engadget that “AT&T is blatantly misleading consumers.”
The 5G Evolution network is currently available in hundreds of markets for certain phones. Donovan said it is a stepping stone to the fifth generation of wireless technology and is twice as fast as the 4G LTE network that most mobile phones connect to, though still not as fast as 5G will be.
Donovan wrote off the criticism as frustration from competitors over AT&T’s “5G” advancements. In the fall, the company announced that it would make a mobile 5G network and mobile 5G devices available to consumers by the end of the year. In December, its pre standard mobile 5G network went live in 12 cities. Even with AT&T’s 5G work, it could be years before most Americans connect to 5G on their mobile phones. Donovan said, “the (5G) network wont be as broad geographically as to be a consumer benefit.” Therefore AT&T will concentrate on industrial users such as enterprise campus and in building wireless networks.
While Donovan did note that “media will be most transformed” by 5G technology, he shared a number of different industrial use cases. The AT&T executive said that 5G could be used to update billboards in real time and make them personalized based on the interests of drivers. 5G will also be instrumental in making mixed-VR headsets like Magic Leap, which AT&T has invested in, usable in mobile environments. He also referred to a new partnership with the Dallas Cowboys, but did not elaborate. Rush Hospital in Chicago was another 5G partner Donovan noted. “Those are front burners, rather than downloading a movie faster,” he said.
As AT&T prepares for 5G, Donovan said he is rethinking the retail experience. “What’s the WOW experience in our store? The WOW stands for ‘walk out and watch,'” he said, explaining that he wants customers to know about the content coming from Warner Media, which AT&T recently acquired. “It’s providing a whole new set of opportunities for the media business.”